There is no dearth of abuse and oppression in our society. This was proved when I noticed a child working in a canteen in one of the halls of our university.
Talking to the boy I came to know that he worked eighteen hours a day at an ordinary wage of Rs. 2500 per month.
“Why are you asking me this? My master wakes me up a eight in the morning and I get to sleep at two in the night”, Abdullah, 12, RM Hall Canteen.
“I was wondering when is it going to stop. Why not the students protest against this?”
On my persistence to talk to him, Abdullah, still washing the used cups and plates asked me to wait till he completes his work. After having had his work done, he sat with me at a corner table of the canteen. He said that he doesn’t wants to work here but he can’t help him-self.
“My parents passed away when I was eight. I had to look upon my younger brothers and a sister. I needed money. I needed job. That’s why I work here”, says Abdullah.
On asking him if he wants to study, he replied with a hollow smile, “when I lived with my parents, they forced me to go to school. At that time I never wanted to go to school. I wanted to play ‘bat-ball’ with my friends back there in my village.”
He further added, “now I want to study. I see hundreds of students daily with colorful bags on their shoulders going to school. Some of them are good. He (pointing to a boy in Sherwani at the counter) gave me a blue colored sweater in winter.”
Abdullah is not the only boy who is working in the canteens of our university. There is an Abdullah in every hall, every canteen. Over sixty-five Abdullahs are deprived of their childhood in our university. The worst part is that in spite of living in one of the greatest of it is educational institute of our country, these children can’t study. Their hands are unskilled to write even their name but are well acquainted with the skills of cleaning and scrubbing the used cups and plates.
We silently and carelessly see these children working. Though its both-morally, socially and constitutionally inappropriate.
“Child labor by law of humanity and by constitutional law is wrong. Child labor should not exist. But try to look at the positive side. What is wrong when these children, by working in these canteens get food for them and their family twice a day? What will they do if they’ll not work? They’ll die of hunger. So what’s wrong if they are working? The only thing in this is that they are deprived of education. ‘Education is a part of life whereas businesses and jobs have no boundations.’ I don’t have any problem with these working children if they are getting education”, said Tariq Chettari, Professor, Aligarh Muslim University in an interview with ConnectInk.
We certainly have certain laws for child labor but they aren’t as effective as needed. Are they even considered as laws’? The government has banned child labor, years ago. But child labor is still common in every region of the country. The only reason is that though the government has banned child labor, we don’t have any substitute for it. These labors need money and people need workers at low wages.
Talking to Tariq Chettari, I came to know that the union school was start-ed to educate poor students ideally for the children of third grade and fourth grad employees of the university. The fees of the student were paid from the budget of students union. Teachers were not paid, they worked voluntarily.
But things have changed now. The school is now a part of university and is run by the university administration as other schools of the university. Today, students there have to pay their fees themselves.
‘The school was captured by the University administration’, says a Law student though he fails to give any valid reason.
But this whole thing gives an idea that the university’s vast infrastructure can be used somehow to initiate evening classes for the poor students. It would help the kids like Abdullah to get education along with his work.
University administration can take steps to arrange education facilities to these children. People should also come forward voluntarily to help . Along with education they must be taught behavioralskills and social values because it is important to remember that culture and social cus-toms are another factor that has consequences on children’s lives.
“I know child labor is a plague but I don’t have got much choice, not putting him to work means there won’t be enough food for everyone on the table”, says the father of Arif, eight years, working in Library canteen.
To eradicate child labor from the country, the NFE (non-formal educa-tion) programme came as the acknowledgement that fighting child labor wasn’t an easy task and that it takes into account the lives and livelihood of the poor. Therefore the program was set up so that children can work and go to school, thus bypassing the goal of universal primary education. It’s a good way to make do with a complex reality.
Same can be tried in the university and adjoining areas too. Classes can happen after regular hours so that the working children can attend them after working in canteens. They can be given a small remuneration as well as snacks. The idea behind it is that the little money they’ll receive will compensate for the loss of a few hours’ work in the canteens.
There are several NGOs , run by the university students which work on various issues outside the campus. They can start working in the campus first. ‘Charity begins at home’, after all. These NGOs can join hands with the locals as well as with the willing university personnel’s to manage this program and try to gradually pull these children into the ‘normal’ school-ing system over a few years.
Aside from making education available to these children and giving them more resources, organizing awareness camps for their parents can make a huge difference in helping them understand the importance of education in one’s life and its wonderful repercussions.
-By: Sharjeel Usmani ( Dip. Engg in Computer Ist year)
“Child-Labor is illegal, during my term as the Provost of RM Hall, I had clearly stated the canteen’s owner that no child should work in the canteen. But he ditched our agreement.
Child-Labor is unethical and illegal and at any cost if it is done, it is not acceptable.”
-SM Javed Akhtar (Finance Officer, AMU)